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Orphan Care as Protest and Resistance

by Dan Cruver Published Apr 2, 2015

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Given the ever present complexity and systemic challenges of the global orphan crisis, how do we keep laboring for orphan prevention, orphan care, and family reunification when we see so little substantial change happening? In his book Rejoicing in Lament, J. Todd Billings offers this perspective: what if we viewed our continued efforts as protest and resistance? Todd writes:

I worked on the staff of a homeless shelter for five years; during that time my illusions about heroically “rescuing” the poor were exposed and shattered. Many of our residents struggled with addition, mental illness, and an economic system that seemed against them. If I had been motivated by the instrumental outcome—seeing visible transformation in our homeless residents—I would have lasted only a few months rather than five years…I faced [this] question: Was I willing to serve the poor “for nothing”? Was I willing to serve the poor even if I couldn’t “fix” or “rescue” them?

My chaplain friend responded to [a nurse suffering burnout and compassion-fatigue] in a striking way: he suggested to her that rather than serving only if she could “change the world,” she should continue her service as an act of protest. How do we respond to a world with dying children? He said she should continue her compassionate action as a lament that witnesses that things in this fallen world are not the way they are supposed to be. How do we respond to a world that enslaves women in sex trafficking? We protest, lament, and act with compassion even when we are overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem. In the words of Paul, we are in a “struggle” against “the powers of this dark world” (Eph. 6:12 NIV) that deal death and alienation from God and neighbor. We struggle to “stand firm” (v. 13) and bear witness to Jesus Christ, the victor over sin, the devil, and the powers. His victory is secure, but his reign of peace and shalom has not fully come.

From this standpoint, the point of compassionate action is not to “change the world.” It is to be faithful and bear witness in word and deed to a different kingdom: that of King Jesus. As our lips say, “Thy kingdom come,” we pray—and act— as revolutionaries who protest against the darkness in this “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4)…We are to “revolt and fight” against “the disorder which inwardly and outwardly controls and penetrates and poisons and disrupts all human relations and interconnections.” Christians have “a binding requirement to engage in a specific uprising,” for in “sighing, calling, and crying ‘The kingdom come,’” Christians enter into a “revolt against disorder” (Rejoicing in Lament, p. 76).

Let’s engage in orphan care as protest and resistance against the fallen world order.


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